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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 01:27 PM ET, 06/08/2011

Awful traffic at Toll Road/Beltway interchange

This comment about traffic at the eastbound Dulles Toll Road’s troublesome interchange with the Capital Beltway came in during Monday’s online chat:

“The new configuration that started last week is a poorly designed and dangerous disaster. How long will this new configuration last? (It’s gotten so bad at rush hour in the morning that the airport police are standing right after the toll plaza every morning, waving over all the people trying to break free of the mess by illegally cutting over to the airport lanes.)

“The signage is typical VDOT — completely incomprehensible: ‘Beltway North — Left Lanes.’ Huh? Followed by ‘Beltway North — Center Lane,’ which is where lanes add/drop so good luck figuring out the center. Traffic is backing up on the DTR for miles each and every morning now. One poorly marked lane for the Beltway North, at rush hour? Seriously?”

I promised I would drive over and check out the new configuration, and got the chance to do that this morning.

It’s just ghastly. I don’t see how the Virginia Department of Transportation can allow such congestion to continue till late 2012, when the interchange reconstruction for the High Occupancy Toll lanes is scheduled to end.

During the morning rush, as I was heading west to attend an event in Herndon, I could see traffic on the eastbound side crawling for miles toward the toll plaza and then the interchange just beyond it. On the way back, at about 10:20 a.m., I shared the pain.

Though it was well past rush hour, the congestion had eased only somewhat. These are the problems I saw:

Approaching the toll plaza, drivers with E-ZPasses want to be over to the left, so they can go through the E-ZPass-only lanes. Those two left lanes were stop and go, clearly warning of a problem ahead, since the drivers have no reason to stop when passing the toll monitor.

Those drivers would be lined up perfectly for proceeding to I-66, but many want to reach the Beltway and must move right, through stopped traffic.

Just east of the toll plaza, there’s a stretch of pavement without lane markings. It’s a free-for-all in heavy traffic, till the markings pick up again. Then — just as the commenter pointed out — drivers who want to go north on the Beltway have to figure out which lane is the center lane, in a merge zone where lanes come and go.

During the time I spent among these travelers — 10:20 to about 10:45 — traffic was heaviest in the center lane. That created a barrier for drivers on the left who were trying to reach the two right lanes leading to the Beltway’s southbound outer loop, and for drivers on the right who were trying to merge left into the two lanes bound for I-66.

Off on the right shoulder were several vehicles stopped after a crash. Bits of glass were still strewn across the travel lanes.

Because I was trying to reach the inner loop, I wanted the center lane, but had to change lanes several times after making bad guesses about which lane that was. In changing lanes, I was just adding to the congestion, but I appreciated the courtesy of other motorists. It probably isn’t the last time they’ll take pity on a confused driver at that location.

Does your trip through this work zone match what the commenter and I saw?

By  |  01:27 PM ET, 06/08/2011

Categories:  Construction, Virginia

 
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